* Inflation among highest in emerging markets
* Most economists expected no change in rates
* Bank sees inflation falling in 2015 (Adds detail on inflation outlook)
By Ece Toksabay
ISTANBUL, Nov 20 (Reuters) - The Turkish central bank kept interest rates on hold on Thursday and said it would keep monetary policy tight until the inflation outlook improves significantly, hinting that no cuts are likely until next year.
The central bank, which is battling to rein in inflation even as the economy slows and conflict rages in neighbouring countries, said it expects consumer prices to start falling in 2015.
It left its one-week repo rate at 8.25 percent, as forecast by 15 of 16 economists polled by Reuters. One economist had expected a cut in the main rate to 7.75 percent.
The lira firmed slightly to 2.2271 to the dollar after the decision. The Istanbul stock index and 10-year benchmark bond were little moved.
After hiking rates sharply in January to halt a slide in the lira, the central bank cut rates in May, June, July and August before leaving them on hold in September and October.
“We think the bank will be patient before cutting rates and it will wait for inflation to fall in the first quarter of 2015,” said Tufan Comert, a strategist at Garanti Securities.
Businesses and economists now expect a year-end consumer price inflation rate of 9.22 percent, a central bank survey showed last week, creeping up from its previous poll and well above its target rate of 5.3 percent.
Turkish inflation is the highest among leading emerging markets and is embarrassingly far above target, according to Nicholas Spiro of Spiro Sovereign Strategy in London.
“If the (central bank) continues to keep rates on hold until inflation starts to meaningfully decline ... it will win back credibility in the eyes of investors,” he said.
The ruling AK Party is keen to maintain growth before parliamentary elections next June but faces numerous obstacles. The economy slowed more than expected in the second quarter.
The government slashed its growth estimates and raised its inflation forecast for 2014 and 2015 last month, citing unfavourable conditions in the global economy.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu presented a programme of steps aimed at boosting the economy this month, including reducing its dependence on imports and boosting domestic energy resources.
The central bank kept its overnight lending rate at 11.25 percent, its primary dealers’ overnight borrowing rate at 10.75 percent and its overnight borrowing rate at 7.50 percent. (Additional reporting by Seda Sezer; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Nick Tattersall)